Weaving a story-world

67-ritu-kumar Ritu Kumar

Over five decades designer Ritu Kumar undertook several trips to study textiles from different regions. In an upcoming book series, she shares those experiences.

Excerpts from an interview:

Tell us about your new book series.

For over five decades I have travelled the world, fuelled by a passion for studying textiles and the cultures that they represent. My journeys have taken me through Europe and Asia, studying historical Indian textile collections and contemporary traditions of hand-making.... They have given me a unique perspective on textile-producing regions and their lesser-known histories, bringing alive the cultural connections which exist between geographically distant areas.... In an upcoming series of publications, these are presented as detailed travelogues forming both professional memoirs and personal musings.

Have you decided on a title for the series?

The publisher is Seagull; still pondering over the name.

You have mentioned the cultural connect between geographically distant areas. Can you cite an example?

In the first chapter, I am highlighting Ikat—a craft connect that exists between Uzbekistan and Odisha. Ikat is a weaving style common to many world cultures. Being one of the oldest forms of textile crafts, it was introduced in southeast Asian countries. Ikat robes were a royal prerogative for the rulers of the various city-states and their families.

Tell the different regions that are featured in the series.

The forthcoming series will look at the regions of Uzbekistan, Odisha, Kashmir, Banaras, Bengal, Bhutan, Burma, Tamil Nadu, Masulipatnam, Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan.

What are the different elements that will be offered for the readers?

Moving from commentaries on natural landscapes, to cuisine and architecture, the books also relate stories of my encounters with individuals. These excerpts are illustrated with a variety of visual material, and include vintage textiles, memorabilia, and impressionist mixed-media collages.... The mixed-media collages are an attempt to take the viewer into some of these physical environments, evoking the grass-root origins of complex textile techniques, which have been passed down centuries through traditional artisan-craft guides and lineages of families.